Video: Visual storytelling in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

After writing three in-depth posts about the visual storytelling in World 1, World 2, and World 3 of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I realized something: the blog format isn’t well suited for what I’m trying to explain. So I rectified that oversight by creating a more complete analysis, this time of the entire game, in video form!

This video was a lot of work, but I think it turned out well! Thanks to everybody who’s been following my posts thus far. I had a ton of fun making this video, so I’ve started a new YouTube channel for this blog: Dpad on YouTube. Please check out my video and let me know what you think!

I’ve been watching Let’s Play videos for several years now, and after being an admirer from afar, I decided to finally tackle this new method of analysis. In this post, I want to talk about what went into the creation of this video. I’m sure there are plenty of resources out there for Let’s Players. Here’s my perspective on what I went through in the creation of this first video.

Research

First, I needed to play the game again so that I knew what I was talking about! I’ve already played DKCTF extensively for the write-up of the previous posts, but I went through the game for the umpteenth like, making notes on each level I played. I did this without capturing any footage; the focus at this stage was just to get information, and to figure out what footage I needed to capture.

I also played bits and pieces of the previous Donkey Kong Country games, as I knew I wanted to make comparisons to Tropical Freeze.

Gathering the assets

Next, I needed the assets: that is, the audio and visuals needed to make the video happen. I captured footage with the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket. There are probably more sophisticated game recorders out there, but this one seemed intuitive to use and was fairly inexpensive at $140. That said, before I started gathering my assets, I played around with this recorder for a couple hours, learning how it connected to the system, troubleshooting errors that came up, and experimenting with short videos to see how big the file sizes were.

Once all that was out of the way, I played through each level, starting and stopping the recorder for each level so that I could better organize the data. Some levels I played all the way through, especially those levels where I knew I would be taking about them extensively. Other levels I knew I wouldn’t devote much time to analyzing them, so I played until I died, sometimes only 30 seconds.

One great feature of many games is the ability to adjust the volume of the music and sound effects independently. In 25 years of playing video games, I’ve never found a use for these options. But for this project, they came in handy! I turned the music all the way down, recording only sound effects. I knew that when I put the video together, I would have music playing on a separate track from the gameplay footage.

Then I needed to capture music. I readjusted the settings—turning the music all the way up and the sound all the way down. Luckily, DKCTF has many unlockables in the game, like soundtracks. I recorded 2-3 soundtracks from each world, usually for 3-4 minutes so that I had plenty of music to work with. The game doesn’t let you unlock all the soundtracks, so in a few cases I went to specific levels to record the music I needed.

Finally, I gathered some footage from the previous games in the series: DKC, DKC2, DKC3, and DKC Returns. I had the SNES games on the Virtual console, so I played them right from my Wii U. I also had DKC Returns on disc. No emulators were used in the creation of this video!

Recording the scripts

With all assets gathered, next it was time to write the scripts. This was a challenge for me: any follower of my blog knows that I write lengthy posts! The difference between reading and speaking, though, is that somebody can read something much faster than speaking the same words out loud.

The final script was over 6,000 words long! I tried to limit my discussion of each world to around 600-700 words, plus there was a little extra to introduce and conclude the video.

The scripts written, the next step was to record the voiceover. I purchased the Snowball iCE USB microphone by Blue from Best Buy. The mic is pretty good quality for $50. I figured, before I buy a ton of expensive equipment that I might not even use, it’s best to start with fairly inexpensive equipment and improve it over time should I really get into making this videos.

I recorded the scripts in chunks, only 2-3 sentences at a time. If I tried speaking longer than that, I usually stumbled over my words! I recorded the audio in Audacity, a free, open-source audio editor. After recording each segment, I combined the segments into one track, spacing my sentences apart as naturally as I could.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the voice-over work in this video. If I made the video again, I would spend more time editing my scripts for word choices (I tend to repeat certain words and phrases a few times, which makes the voice-over sound redundant in parts) and I would’ve rerecorded some of the sections so that the cadence was more natural.

Preparing the video

With all this prep work complete, it was time to put the video together! I edited the video with Adobe Premiere. I don’t own the program myself, but I’m a professor in a Mass Communication department, so I have access to this program on the school’s computers. I’ve used video editing software before, mostly Sony Vegas, but Adobe Premiere was considerably more sophisticated than Vegas. Fortunately, Google is a good friend! Typing in “How do I do XXX in Adobe Premiere” taught me a lot!

With the project open, I started by laying down my voice-over tracks. Then, I created text overlays for all the level names in the game. I relistened to my voice-overs, had whenever I started discussing a new level or world, I dropped a text overlay at the appropriate place.

Then I laid down the music. Each song would play long enough to cover the analysis of 4-5 levels of a given world. I think there are 15 tracks total in this video. I couldn’t have the music competing with my voice-overs, so I adjusted the audio so that the voice-overs were the loudest, and the music was quieter.

Finally, I was ready to sequence the game footage. I started at the beginning of the video and worked through to the end. I imported the videos, adjusted the volume so that the sound effects were quieter than the music, then cut the video into pieces, depending on what I discussed in the voice-overs.

I didn’t use all the footage from each level, so if I had unused footage, I put it toward the back of the timeline, as I knew I would need some general filler footage for the intro and conclusion to the video. By the time I got to editing the conclusion, I had a couple dozen clips to choose from. Almost no video repeats itself on this project!

Of course, there were several snafus I had to overcome in the creation of this project. Sometimes I forgot to record a tiny section of gameplay, or my voice-over just wasn’t good enough so I rerecorded it. Sometimes the video wasn’t displaying properly in the editor, so I had to fix it. And exporting the video took a few tries until I was satisfied with the final result.

Overall, I estimate that it took about 40 hours to produce this 37 minute video! Hopefully in the future, now that I’ve been through the process once, I can produce videos faster!

Since I am so pleased with how this first video turned out, for my next project I’m going to analyze the visual storytelling in the first Donkey Kong Country game: how did the inaugural entry to the series tell its story?

Stay turned for more videos, and more blog posts!

Game on,
~Dennis

Censored course names in Super Mario Maker

I just got Super Mario Maker, and I have to say, I love this game so much. The game gives you a lot of freedom in how you design your courses…except when it comes to naming them. The game isn’t always clear on why certain words are banned and others aren’t, so in this post, I’ll share with you my research on censored course names.

A year and a half ago, I did something very similar with censored names in Pokémon X and Y, and it’s proven by far to be my most popular post on this blog. So many people chimed in as the months went on, fleshing out my list of censored words. Pokémon and Mario are both Nintendo products (though Pokémon is developed by Game Freak, whereas Nintendo proper developed Super Mario Maker), so I thought it would be useful to compare the games.

I started by entering most of the censored names from Pokémon into the course names for SMM. I quickly found that SMM is much more lenient than Pokémon X and Y when it comes to the words you use. That being said, I didn’t check every last name from my Pokémon post. However, if you make it to the last section of this post, you’ll see a big caveat when it comes to the leniency of SMM. In some ways, SMM is more restrictive than Pokémon, which can make it tricky to figure out what words you can use and which words you cannot.

Warning: This post contains strong language, obviously, but is used in the interest of educating the reader on exactly where Nintendo draws the line when it comes to censorship.

Anatomy

As in my Pokémon post, I started with human anatomy. So many naughty words exist for describing certain parts of the human body that my assumption was that, like Pokémon, most of these words would be banned.

I was partially wrong.

The following words for female anatomy cannot be used in SMM: cunt, pussy, snatch, titty, titties, twat, and vagina. That’s it. My list on the Pokémon post was much longer (though interestingly, titty in the singular was allowed in Pokémon, but no more in SMM). I’m really not sure what to make of these findings, but all of the following words CAN be used, which were banned in Pokémon: boob, breast, clitoris, labia, tit, and vulva.

The following words for male anatomy cannot be used: ballsack, choad, cock, dick, nutsack, pecker, penis, schlong, scrotum, testes, and testicle. This list is largely the same as Pokémon, except in Pokémon testicle was an acceptable word. Additionally, Pokémon banned the word balls, yet balls is acceptable in SMM. Nuts, numbnuts, prick, and sack can be used in SMM, but not in Pokémon.

Pokémon also banned alternative spellings of these words, to some success. I haven’t tested all combinations of alternative spellings, but I found that words like c0ck (with a zero instead of an “O”) and d!ck work. This is important to know, as one of the first levels I designed I wanted to call “Cock of the Walk,” as in, rooster, but could not. Instead, that level is now named “C0CK of the WALK” (the caps are so that the larger zero doesn’t look as far out of place).

The only banned general anatomy terms I found were anal and ass. And this is a very important point: in Pokémon, most words that contained the letters “a-s-s” were generally banned, like assassin. However, so far, I’ve found SMM to be much more forgiving when it comes to using the root “a-s-s,” which is actually a huge relief.

The following general anatomy terms were banned in Pokémon, but are now acceptable in SMM: butt, gonads, and genital. You can still use bosom, bust, butthole, and nipple, just like in Pokémon.

I’m going to use a term throughout this post that needs a little explaining. When you start typing words into the Wii U game pad, it will provide “suggested” terms above the keypad. This is similar to the autofill feature on Google, for example. What I find fascinating about this feature is that many times it will suggest words that, in my mind, should be censored (under Nintendo’s admittedly opaque guidelines). Throughout this post, then, I’ll refer to “suggested” terms that Nintendo freely provides to the player.

For example, if you start writing “butt” the Wii U will suggest buttocks. It will also suggest arse, circumcise, hymen, phallic, phallus, and taint. In Pokémon, arse was banned.

This doesn’t exactly relate to anatomy, but I also found that SMM bans more than 4 numerals in a row, presumably to prevent kids from sharing their phone numbers and other private information online. Thus, you can’t write something like 5318008 (type it in your calculator, turn it upside down, and it spells “boobies”).

Bodily Fluids

As in Pokémon, words for bodily fluids are generally banned: crap, cum, jizz, piss, semen, shit, and turd. You can use feces, pee, and poop if you want. And dung and urination are suggested words.

Sexuality

Given how loose SMM had gotten on the anatomy words, I was thinking a similar looseness would accompany words related to sexuality. Here I was wrong. The following words are banned: fuck, fuk, hardon, hooker, masturbate (and the misspelling masturbat), milf, molest (but molester works), pedo, pimp, rape, rapist, sex, shag, and whore. Prostitute is acceptable, even though it was banned in Pokémon.

In Pokémon, panties was banned, but in SMM, panties is now acceptable. Other words for undergarments that were acceptable in Pokémon remain acceptable in SMM, such as bra and thong.

As with anatomy, SMM suggested words that don’t make much sense, like abortionfetish, fornicate, and suck. Orgy is banned, not surprisingly, but surprisingly, orgiastic was suggested. Erection was suggested, even though stiffy is banned. Woody is acceptable.

Horny, hump, screw and XXX work, but were banned in Pokémon.

If you start typing in erot, SMM will suggest erotic, erotica, and eroticism!

Substances

What greatly surprised me about Pokémon was that all of the general terms I could think of for alcohol, tobacco, and drug substances were allowed. Given that the common names were allowed, I assumed that slang terms would also escape censorship.

SMM is largely the same. The only substance word I could find that was banned was cocaine (it was allowed in Pokémon). What’s different about SMM, though, are these suggested words. If you start typing any of the following , the Wii U will suggest: alcohol, cigar, cigarette, drugs, ecstasy, heroin, hookah, marijuana, and weed.

Violence

The following words related to violence and war were banned in Pokémon, but are now acceptable in SMM, including: damn, damnation, Hitler, Holocaust, kill, killer, jihad, murder, Nazi, and terrorist. In fact, when you start typing in “terror” one of the suggested words is terrorism.

Hell was always an acceptable word in Pokémon, and it works in SMM as well. Furthermore, when you type in hell, SMM will suggest words like hellish, hellfire, and hell-bent.

Name Calling

Lots of insult and derogatory words are banned in SMM, including bastard, bitch, chink, dyke, lesbo, fag, faggy, faggot, nig, nigga, nigger, spic, and queer. Interestingly, b!tch works in SMM, though it was banned in Pokémon. Douchebag is banned in SMM, but douche is okay.

Wetback is acceptable, though was banned in Pokémon.

Perhaps the biggest change concerning name calling surrounds LGBT terms. In Pokémon, gay was acceptable but lesbian was banned for some reason (it’s not an offensive term). Additionally, homo was banned, but hetero was acceptable. In SMM, gay, lesbian, and homo are now acceptable words.

Non-English Words

Perhaps the biggest relief I found with SMM is that viola is an acceptable word, whereas in Pokémon it was banned! Let me back up and explain the context here. In Pokémon, viola was banned as “viol” is French for “rape.” Players can trade Pokémon with players in other countries, so I guess Game Freak was trying to protect their French players from getting an American Pokémon named the equivalent of rape. What didn’t make sense, though, is that the name of the first Gym Leader was Viola!

Pokémon X and Y was notorious for banning words that were offensive in other languages, and given that players can trade levels in SMM with people all over the world, I figured Nintendo would take the same stance to protect international audiences.

My command of offensive words in other languages is quite limited, so if you are a reader from outside the US, please confirm which words are banned in your language. I can’t remember why, but dago was banned in Pokémon; it’s banned in SMM as well.

Other foreign words that were banned Pokémon (read the comments on that Pokémon post to understand the speculation why) but are now acceptable in SMM include: chi-chi, hektor, kukka, lana, laputa, mona, penelope, and pik.

Big Caveat: Use caution with the “acceptable” words

This list of banned and acceptable words is by no means complete, but at least it’s a start to this research. If you find any other words that are banned or acceptable, please let me know in the comments.

That said, I caution you against using any of the accepted words for the following reason: Nintendo might still flag your levels as inappropriate! I didn’t know this at the time, but SMM actually runs on Nintendo’s Miiverse system. I’m curious if the banned words in SMM are the same as those banned across all games that utilize Miiverse. I couldn’t find a decent website that listed banned words in Miiverse, so this is an open question at the moment.

When I started finding all of these acceptable words that were banned in Pokémon, I got suspicious. I thought, perhaps, you are given a lot of freedom for how you name your courses in private, but once you upload them to the SMM server, then they might get flagged.

I performed a simple test. I used one of the default SMM levels, named it “boob and uploaded it. Boob, of course, is an acceptable word. I was thinking once I uploaded it SMM would tell me I couldn’t use that word.

Nope! The level uploaded just fine, and somebody even played it.

My curiosity piqued, I thought I’d go all out. What if I packed a course title with as many offensive, but acceptable, terms that I could? I created another simple level and uploaded it with the title “death to nazi muslim molesters.” Now, I’m not even sure what that title means. I didn’t want to inadvertently offend somebody, so I planned on taking the level down within a few minutes anyway. I hit upload, and sure enough, the level uploaded with no issues.

I continued testing words and planned on uploading a third level with “acceptable” words, as I couldn’t believe these terms were getting through. But then I hit a snag. I couldn’t upload levels anymore. I was told to go to Miiverse and read the error messages.

And then it became clear. My first level, boob, was deleted for “inappropriate or harmful content.” According to the Miiverse Code of Conduct, this kind of content is defined as “anything that promotes dangerous behavior or illegal activities.” So boob promotes dangerous behavior or illegal activities?

The second level was also promptly deleted for “hateful or bullying content.” That makes sense, and Miiverse defines this content as “any content that slanders, or misrepresents another person, as well as any discriminatory, harassing, or abusive content.”

Fair enough. What upset me, though, was that I was banned from posting anything in Miiverse for two weeks! I can play other people’s SMM levels, but can’t upload my own. Here’s what I was told:

You have been banned from writing messages and community posts for two weeks due to a violation of the Miiverse Code of Conduct. This ban applies to any other users who access Miiverse using this device. If further violations of the Miiverse Code of Conduct occur, you and any other users who access Miiverse using this device may be permanently banned from writing messages and community posts.

This is why I say, then, to use the acceptable words with extreme caution. Apparently SMM has an explicit list of banned words—the game won’t let you use terms like fuck in any circumstance. However, it seems there is also a hidden, implicit list of banned words, ones that users won’t learn of until they transgress the Miiverse Code of Conduct.

So, because of this infraction, I hesitate to continue this research: I want to keep uploading levels to SMM! And if I do get banned from Miiverse, the penalty doesn’t just apply to me, but to ANY users of my Wii U. Thus, I wouldn’t be able to simply create a new Mii or user profile to get around the ban.

Hopefully this post is helpful in figuring out what words work and what words don’t in SMM. In a way, the system is looser than Pokémon, provided you keep the levels to yourself. But use caution in uploading them to Miiverse, as it seems there is somebody at Nintendo who checks Miiverse posts against a secret list of banned words. And you won’t know what that list is until you have your content blocked.

Game on,
~Dennis

Top 24 Levels in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

Of all video game genres, the side-scrolling platformer is my favorite. And of all the platformers out there, the Donkey Kong Country series is by far the best designed.

Sure, the Mario series runs a close second. But I always found DKC more difficult, more atmospheric. It doesn’t always have the razzle-dazzle of Mario, the kookiness, the originality. DKC sticks with a couple ideas and does them well.

I love all five DKC games. In this post I’ll be discussing DKC Tropical Freeze for the Wii-U.

I come back to this game over and over again. When I’m bored, lonely, or just need a diversion, this game is there for me. I play it for an hour or so and all my cares drip away.

Not every level is good. But many of them are great.

Think of this post as a playlist. If I need 60-90 minutes of quality entertainment, fun all the way through, these are the levels I play. I don’t search for puzzle pieces, but if I find them I grab them. I don’t do the bonus levels, as I like listening to the stage music and not the zany bonus music. I don’t play all the levels on this playlist, but pick and choose between 75% of them.

Let me know if the comments what your favorite levels are! Videos courtesy of Zephiel810 and Easy2plaYFullHD.

Busted Bayou

As much as I love Tropical Freeze, the first world is underwhelming. However, Busted Bayou clearly stands above the rest.

The music is swinging, the graphics are alluring, and the use of shadows and dark space to conceal platforms and puzzles is ingenious.

This is a world I want to spend time in.

Discovering the hidden star in the leaves is one of my favorite memories from this game.

Windmill Hills

Before I played Tropical Freeze, I was getting jaded with the world designs in platformers. There’s always an ice world, fire world, water world, desert world, etc. World themes have gotten very cliche; DKC and Mario games are to blame for this.

Then I saw World 2 in Tropical Freeze. A German-themed world? That’s the best way I describe it to friends. Anybody think of this theme differently? The folk instruments, the windmills and bells, the beer steins–it’s all so different. And Windmill Hills nails it.

The music is so relaxing, and the juxtaposition between jungle apes and Germany is so strange.

This level has a great sense of scale, as you fly through the air and jump from windmill to windmill. This is my second favorite level in the game.

Mountain Mania

You can’t go wrong with the Rambi levels. Who doesn’t love running around breaking things?

If you aren’t searching for puzzle pieces, this level’s quick and exhilarating. Smashing rocks and smashing bells. That’s all you need in life.

Sawmill Thrill

DKC Returns and DKC Tropical Freeze are awesome games, don’t get me wrong. But by this point in the DKC franchise, the infamous mine cart level formula has gotten a little stale.

The mine cart levels in DKC and DKC2 are most memorable to me (did DKC3 even have them?), but those games actually use the mine carts only a couple times. They were memorable because of how sparse they were.

To Tropical Freeze’s credit, they did try to mix up the mine cart formula. Of the mine cart levels, Sawmill Thrill is the best.

The music is more akin to original DKC music, and there’s just something satisfying about switching from the mine cart to the sawed log boat.

Alpine Incline

Okay, the last level from World 2! If I don’t have a lot of time, I play Windmill Hills, followed by Alpine Incline.

The music’s a little dark, and the stage is a little scary. You jump from such high platforms with very little margin for error.

This level really gives me a sense of vertigo!

Bopopolis

I love the inclusion of the temple levels in the DKC Returns and Tropical Freeze. With no checkpoints, the levels are unforgiving.

However, they are a challenge. If I’m playing to relax, which is what this playlist of level is all about, I usually don’t turn to these levels. But if I had to pick one, Bopopolis would be it.

It’s so difficult to time the bops and jumps just right. But when you get it down, when you fly through the level with no errors, I get a sense of great accomplishment!

Grassland Groove

Picking a top level in Tropical Freeze is tough, but Grassland Groove has to be it.

We’ve seen jungle theme in DKC before: jungle is the primary theme! For some reason, though, we’ve never seen African theme.

World 3 is a real treat, just like World 2, in overturning expectations!

Grassland Groove has the best music and the best graphics of any level in the game. This level is fun and happy, celebratory even. The excessive fireworks are also a nice touch.

When you get to the end, stand on the balloons for a few seconds and let the music finish. The sun shines, and the crowd sings your praise. Can you end a level any better than this?

Frantic Fields

Frantic is right! Dust storms, tornadoes, flying water buffalo, this level has it all! It’s a Rambi level, so that automatically makes it good in my book.

But this Rambi level isn’t so much about smashing stuff, but dodging debris. The end section, when DK and Rambi are caught in a wind storm, jumping from rock to rock, is sublime.

Scorch ‘N’ Torch

As I said before, lots of platformers have obligatory fire or lava levels. The trope has been so overused that fire levels just don’t excite me anymore, even though fire is inherently exciting!

Scorch ‘N’ Torch changed my perceptions. Finally, a new take on the fire level!

The idea of branches and grass slowly burning the longer you stand in place is masterful. It forces you to keep jumping, to keep moving. It adds a little stress, but a good kind of stress.

You feel like the world is actually burning around you, that you have to escape, unlike most fire levels, where it seems inconceivable that a monkey could stand in the middle of a volcano and not feel the slightest discomfort (I’m looking at you DKC, Returns!).

Amiss Abyss

One major problem with DKC Returns: no water levels! I know many gamers hate water levels, but the water levels in the DKC series, especially the first one, were so epic, peaceful, and calm.

Now they’re returned in Tropical Freeze! My one criticism is that most of them have transitions between water and land parts, and usually the land part has different, more upbeat music than the water parts. I want to listen to the ambient water music the whole way through!

Amiss Abyss doesn’t disappoint in the music area. The new soundtrack is awesome, and the music doesn’t change on the land parts.

Plus, the black on blue shadow effort looks rad.

Irate Eight

If you’re noticing at theme on this list, I prefer the relaxing, atmospheric levels over the more chaotic ones. Irate Eight is an exception.

You’re constantly under pressure to keep moving. This is the hardest of the water levels, but the pounding classic DKC medley encourages you to keep fighting, keep pressing forward.

Even though I love swimming in real life, water is one of the scariest things to me. Being under so much dark water in this level, with stuff constantly flying at me, sets me on edge. But I like that feeling. And Irate Eight captures the horror of water so well.

Rockin’ Relics

Same music as Irate Eight, same effect of scaring the pants off me! The pounding rain, the rockin’ relics, the lightning flashes: very cool.

This level does have different musics for the water and land sections, which I’m usually annoyed with in Tropical Returns. However, this time the tracks on both land and sea are awesome, and the transition between them is much smoother.

Frosty Fruits

Okay, World 1 was a bit of a letdown, theme-wise. World 5 is even more so.

After the awesome new themes of Germany and Africa in Worlds 2 and 3, and the return of water levels in World 4, we are treated (get it?) to…fruit theme.

Fruit theme?!

DKC Returns had a secret bonus level that was fruit-themed. It was difficult, and quite silly. I was so surprised, then, to see Retro Studios double down on the fruit theme.

Because of the theme, I just can’t enjoy most of the levels in World 5.

Frosty Fruits is the CLEAR exception. The music is moody, the platforming is exciting, and the frosty theme actually transitions nicely to World 6. After all, this game is called Tropical Freeze.

Platform Problems

One more challenge temple level. Platform Problems is a little easier than Bopopolis, but no less satisfying to complete.

This level is so rickety: the platforms are constantly falling away. You have to think fast, and jump quick, if you want to make it out alive.

Homecoming Hijinx

We’re getting to the end of the game! World 6 blows all other worlds out of the water. This is how ice levels should be done.

What’s so ingenious about this world is that each of the 8 levels is reflective of one whole world from DKC Returns. It really feels like DK’s island has frozen over. The stakes are high. You want to save your homeland.

The first level in DKC Returns paid homage to the first level of DKC. Homecoming Hijinks pays homage to both.

The music sets the mood: this is a sad world. The snowmads have already won the war. They’ve settled in and made DK Island their home. All traces of the monkeys and their forest friends have been eliminated.

Now DK has to fight back!

Jungle theme has always been one of my least favorite video game world themes. But frozen jungle? That I can do.

Seashore War

I know I said Grassland Groove is my favorite level, and Windmill Hills is second, but some days, Seashore War tops both of them combined.

The music is forlorn. Is this really a war? The snowmad’s ships are everywhere, conquering the bay. And DK has to single-handedly take them out.

The water is freezing, so no more swimming. That’s fine. Water is an obstacle again. Water’s scary, like I said, and freezing water is especially scary.

I love all of the ships that DK has to pull up from the sea. Even though it makes no sense (video game physics, y’all), his strained grunts, against the backdrop of the melancholy music, makes you feel DK’s pain as he tears apart the snowmad fleet.

Aqueduct Assault

The third world of DKC Returns was Cave world. Not one of my favorite themes, but it had some sweet mine cart levels (better than Tropical Freeze). We return to the caves, not to race mine carts, but to climb across frozen, stone ruins.

Nearly every platform breaks away. These aqueducts have stood the test of time. They are ancient relics.

Unfortunately, the snowmads ruined them. Completing the level is bittersweet. Sure, DK liberated this part of the island from the snowmads. But at what cost? The remnants of some ancient civilization are reduced to dust and crumble.

Blurry Flurry

DKC Returns tried to mix up the gameplay by adding in rocket barrel levels. The music is a little too jazzy for my taste, but the rocket levels are a nice diversion from the mine cart levels.

If I had to pick one rocket barrel level from Tropical Freeze, Blurry Flurry is it. The final few seconds in the snowball make it all worth it.

Forest Folly

David Wise, original composer of DKC, returned to Tropical Freeze to contribute to the music. He really hit it out of the park on Forest Folly, as per his style.

The land is still frozen, and the music is strangely accepting of the devastation. By this point, DK has liberated half of his island. But the snow keeps coming, and the snowmads refuse to give up their stranglehold.

Giant totems are frozen, and the snowmads seem very comfortable with their new home.

DK has a sort of resignation to himself in this level. He’s getting sick of the snowmad’s crap, but he’s here to do a job, and he’ll finish the job, even if he’s alone.

Cliffside Slide

So it looks like I’m just favoriting every level in World 6 at this point!

Another shadow level, Cliffside Slide gets us away from the melancholy feelings of the previous levels and gets serious.

Snow is burying the island, and DK is mad. The snowmads know no rest from their wickedness. Now they’re destroying million year old dinosaur fossils.

DK can’t save everything. But maybe he can bury the snowmads in their own snow.

Frozen Frenzy

I always loved the factory levels in DKC. They seem like such a weird theme. Jungle animals in industrialized areas? What a perfect way to show the extent that DK’s home is conquered by outside forces!

True, the factories were already present in DKC Returns. The snowmads seem to have taken up residence in a factory DK previously destroyed.

How strange, then, that DK has to activate this factory before he can defeat the snowmads! Factories were always DK’s enemy. But the enemy of his enemy is his friend.

DK will turn on this polluting factory if that means getting the snowmads off his island.

Meltdown Mayhem

Fire levels are boring. But ice and fire levels? Amazing!

For some reason, 2D platformers usually don’t mix ice and fire themes, even though they naturally go together. You can’t get any more contrasting than ice and fire.

We return to the volcano from DKC Returns (really DKC2), but even the volcano is frozen! The snowmad’s reach has extended way too far.

Atop Rambi, DK will smash all the ice apart, returning the volcano to its natural state.

Is an active, boiling volcano safe? No. But in DK’s mind, an active volcano is a much more manageable, a much more predictable foe than the icy havoc of the snowmads.

Dynamite Dash

When I’m playing to relax, usually I finish my playthrough with Meltdown Mayhem. But if I’m not ready to put the controller down yet, I play the two World 6 bonus levels.

Dynamite Dash is another cave level. But this time you blow everything up.

And sometimes that’s enough.

Icicle Arsenal

Whereas the normal 8 levels in World 6 are frozen reskins of DKC Returns levels, Icicle Arsenal is original. The castle featured in this level didn’t appear in Returns.

It seems, then, that the snowmads have done more than just occupy DK Island. Now they are building their own castles, their own settlements.

And DK, once again, is here to tear them down.

Game on,
~Dennis